Is God Really "Up There?"


If you were somehow able to time travel to 1974 and drop into the Fairfield Road Baptist Church in Greenville, SC around the Sunday school hour, you would have found six-year-old Leon in a tiny classroom in the church basement staring critically at a flannelgraph board. 

Flannelgraph was the go-to teaching aid for generations of kids in the 50's, 60's and 70's.  We didn't have videos back then.  We barely had running water and electricity. 

[That last bit was for anyone who might have been reading this, who said: "Man, Leon is old."  Whatever man.]

So let's imagine that you asked the six-year-olds in my classroom the following question: "Where is God?"  How do you think that they would respond?

Most likely they would raise their arms, and point to the sky.  "Up there."

It's interesting that those first impulses we have about the otherness of God are so often informed by the idea of distance.  In other words, God is far away, somewhere other than here.  

Even though we know what constitutes "up there" and that there's no palace above the clouds where God sits on a golden throne... we often still work with the same ideas we had when we were children.  

Unfortunately, when we view God as far away, high above all our earthly existence, many of us also begin to believe that what's out there somewhere, at some future time matters more than what's right here, right now.  

And when we begin to become otherworldly focused, we often can become no earthly good--to coin an old chestnut.  Which is why I think that we need to think of God differently.  We need to be able to imagine God as near... right here... right now... all around us, in us and through us.  

Recently, I read a great quote from author Zack Hunt, who said: 
Christianity isn't just about getting saved and going off to heaven.  Christianity is about "Thy kingdom come, They will be done on earth as it is in heaven." That's what makes the gospel "good news to the poor."  It's the promise that God isn't sitting around, waiting for some distant unknowable day in the future to act.  God is at work in the world today, making the lives of the least of these better now. 
May you begin to realize that not only do you matter to God, but that matter matters to God, too.  All of this, all of Creation matters to the Creator, and it should matter to us.  May you see where God is at work in the world, and join God in that good work. 

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  

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